Rupert Murdoch’s bid for Dow Jones & Co. ran into more resistance Sunday as a large Dow Jones shareholder said he strongly opposes News Corp.’s bid to take over the financial news publisher, which owns The Wall Street Journal.
Jim Ottaway Jr., a former Dow Jones board member, said in a statement posted on the Journal’s Web site that a Murdoch takeover would lead to the “loss of the independence and integrity of a leading national editorial voice.”
“Rupert Murdoch comes from a very different tradition of Australian-British media ownership and editorial practice in which he has for a long time expressed his personal, political, and business biases through his newspapers and television channels,” Ottaway said. “The Bancroft family has treated Dow Jones as a public trust, not for personal or political interests, or maximum enhancement of family wealth by sale to a high bidder.”
Ottaway said he also opposes a sale to Murdoch because it would further concentrate media ownership and influence.
The $5 billion bid for Dow Jones from Murdoch’s News Corp. has already been opposed by Dow Jones’ controlling shareholders, the Bancroft family, but the family is not united in its stance.
Dow Jones has said a family representative indicated that Bancroft family members representing 52 percent of the company’s shareholder vote would oppose the bid — not quite all of the family’s voting power of 64 percent.
The opposition of Ottaway, whose family controls about 6.2 percent of Dow Jones’s supervoting shares, would make it tougher for Murdoch to gain control of Dow Jones.
“The important question is, why should Dow Jones be sold to anyone? It is not necessary for any internal business reason,” Jim Ottaway said in his statement. “I think the controlling shareholders of Dow Jones should answer News Corp.’s unsolicited offer by saying, ’Dow Jones is not for sale, at any price, to Rupert Murdoch.”’
The Journal’s Web site also carried a copy of a letter from Ottaway’s son Jay to the trustees of the Bancroft family urging them to oppose Murdoch’s offer.
Jay Ottaway said that when his father and grandfather agreed to merge Ottaway Newspapers with Dow Jones in 1970, it was understood that the deal was between partners with shared values.
“A deal with Rupert Murdoch would not be a deal between partners with shared values,” the letter said.
A representative of Ottaway Newspapers, which is now a unit of Dow Jones, didn’t return a call seeking further comment on the statements, nor did a spokesman for News Corp.
Separately, a Dow Jones spokesman said the company has received a subpoena from the New York attorney general’s office and a request for information from the Securities and Exchange Commission regarding the trading of Dow Jones options prior to the announcement of News Corp.’s bid last Tuesday, which sent Dow Jones’ shares soaring. The spokesman said the company would “cooperate fully” with the authorities.
There had been a surge in Dow Jones call options, which allow investors to buy shares in the future at a specific price, suggesting that some investors knew about Murdoch’s offer before it was announced.